Hot And Cool: Tony Bennett Sings Ellington

Tony Bennett

RPM/Columbia, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


I can just hear you all. 'Come on, Duke, Tony-freakin'-BENNETT?'

Yep. Tony Bennett is, frankly, one of the greatest jazz and swing vocalists of all time. With astonishingly vocal longevity, he has remained fresh and relevant while many of his peers have burned out, dropped out of sight, or are just no longer with us. Bennett has the rare gift of making whatever he sings moving, interesting, and new. When you combine his vocals with the songs of the peerless Duke Ellington, you have the major potential for some serious magic. Regardless of your preferred musical preference, a bit of this should do you good.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But how good, exactly, is it? Let's be realistic; it's tough to cover Duke Ellington, because, well, everyone in this genre has as one point or another, and you're going to get compared to others. So how does Bennett do?

The answer is pretty well, but not perfect. The oddest thing about Hot And Cool is that Bennett actually does better on the lesser-known (lesser-known here is a relative term, y'all) Ellington pieces. The CD starts off with the swinging "Do Nothin' (Till You Hear From Me)", and Bennett nails it perfectly. Same with "Azure", "In A Sentimental Mood", "She's Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)", and the bass-driven smoky swing of "In A Mellow Tone". A little less impressive is his version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" -- an Ellington classic, to me Bennett's version seems to drag a little. Maybe I can't help but compare it to Chicago's dynamite cover from their Night And Day CD. I'm also not crazy about Bennett's version of "Caravan"; one of my favorite Ellington works, Bennett sounds forced and a bit drawn at times. Finally, the constant 'drop-ins' of a few bars of "Take The A Train" really got on my nerves; by the end of the CD, I found myself really wishing that Bennett would just sing the damn thing.

Admittedly, these are minor concerns, and perhaps my personal biases are showing. Certainly, Bennett closes Hot And Cool with a bang, nailing "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" with a driving, bright, and stylish take on this classic. A good closing number will forgive myriad sins on a jazz CD, and Hot And Cool delivers in style.

Hot And Cool succeeds as a Tony Bennett album and a Duke Ellington tribute. There may be occasional moments where it slips a little, but on the whole it's a good CD and worth looking into for fans of either artist.

Rating: B+

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